Categories
America: Society Journal People

Holiday Wishes

Like Hiro from “Heroes” I closed my eyes and the next thing I knew I was standing downtown in Manhattan, the yellow cabs bustling past and all the noise and hubub of New York all around me. I was back in America! It’s been a long way since all the craziness of the tragedy and my refusal to have anything to do with this country. But family is family and you can’t be angry forever. It was time to return and take stock. So here I am at my mother’s apartment in uptown Manhattan, trying to get over jetlag, but joyous at the empinada I ate yesterday evening and the friendliness of all the people on the streets, but most of all to see my mother again. Living across the ocean from her really makes distances hard. And such a relief to open the door and see her standing there.

The big surprise was immigration at Kennedy Airport. Instead of a reenactment of the horror stories that everyone around the world is grumbling about, going through immigration and customs was actually pleasurable. The immigration officer was playing Christmas music on his iPod, with little speakers to fill his cubicle. He gave me a big smile and was a friendly as can be. He asked about Japan at this time of year and wondered if it was cold and people celebrated. Then a song came on the iPod, one by Josh Groban, and the officer lit up like a Christmas tree candle.

“Have you heard of him?” he asked. “Man, a voice like an angel! You’ve got to listen to this.” Then, in spite of all the exhausted passengers waiting on line behind us, he turned up the sound and closed his eyes as the music flooded the immigration hall. I stared at him as if I had entered Wonderland. This was the fearsome American immigration?

Within fifteen minutes we had made it out to the arrival lounge. Ten minutes later a shuttle bus driver drove up and asked us if we wanted to go to the city. Two other passengers, a Japanese woman traveling alone and a Colombian who lived in Atlantic City were huddled in the van together, heading for Port Authority in Manhattan. Bobbing to Salsa on the van CD player we all laughed and shared stories of Japan and working there. I had forgotten how easily Americans speak to each other.

With a quiet night of sleep behind me and a rather warm, sunny Christmas Eve morning to wake up to, the start has been wonderful. I guess as always it is important to just take the steps out of your door and let things come as they may. My brother arrives from Boston this evening and then we can really start laughing and enjoying each others’ company.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope you have warm and memorable time with your own families. Deep peace and quiet hearts to everyone.

love,
Miguel

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Musings

Why Non-Americans Often Hate America

I am so angry I can barely find words to express what I want to say here.

Tomorrow my Brazilian wife has to go to the American Embassy in Tokyo to be subjected to an “interview” (substitute that with “interrogation”) to determine whether or not she will be eligible to transit in Houston, on her way to her home country of Brazil. She has to get a visa for transit! Not to stop and spend any time in the States, just to transit! And get this, she has to pay a non-returnable “fee” (read “extortion”) of Â¥18,000 (about $180.00) for the privilege. On top of that, she has to be fingerprinted while in transit. And furthermore, she has to do the interview in English, even though she doesn’t speak English very well.

There is no other country which does this. Transit for God’s sake! I wish the world would hit back and force only Americans to be subjected to such “interviews” every single time they cross a border, to be fingerprinted with indelible ink on every finger at every port of call, to be forced to undergo the “interview” in every language but English, and to pay $200.00 every time they even fly over another country not their own.

What makes me hopping mad is that this is being done to my wife, one of the gentlest, kindest, most unassuming people I’ve ever met. The whole New York tragedy and Iraq war insanity was something that made so little sense to her that just watching it on TV was like watching a conversation between lunatics. She’s so scared tonight that she can’t sleep. And since she’s alone in Tokyo, I can’t even comfort her. I cannot forgive people who scare those whom I care about. There is no reason whatsoever that my wife should have to feel any kind of fear about going home. And since several of her Brazilian friends have been plucked out of lines in the American airports and strip searched, she’s worried about being subjected to indignities.

God damn it! How I wish that Americans would get their come-uppance for how they’ve treated the rest of the world for the past five years!

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal

Bile

My apologies to everyone who reads these pages, for my long absence. I just moved to a new place (albeit temporary housing for now) and started a new job at a university. The whole start has been so harrowing and busy that I had no time for even my own thoughts, let alone writing here in the blog. I would probably have ended up writing about all my complaints about the absolutely antediluvian (and feudal) Japanese university system. Since I want to keep this blog as sane and contemplative as possible from now on, I decided to wait until my heart had settled down into the new lifestyle before I wrote about what’s happening. I want to start a new section called “Compass Walks”, in which I start out in a new landscape and try to learn about its natural personality, but since I haven’t had a moment to myself yet and haven’t even taken one walk yet beyond an evening run one time, I still don’t feel I can write an honest assessment of the new place I have arrived in since I haven’t had a chance to really concentrate on using my senses there yet. So allow me, for now, this bit of a commentary below, however distasteful it might be to some.
____________________________________

Today, after a more-or-less media-slanted series of so-called “fair trials”, Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death. I am no fan of the death penalty, believing it to be little more than an emotional reaction of revenge that has no place in a justice system, in which people’s personal feelings toward an accused person should have no bearing on the outcome of a verdict, and so personally the verdict seems meaningless, in that nothing was learned, nothing bettered, nothing gained for society, Iraq or the world. I have no affection for Hussein either, however, and so feel ambiguous about the retribution that Iraqis rightfully claim for his punishment. He has done some awful things to which he should be held accountable. His passing will leave no hole in the landscape of human morality.

But from what dubious beginnings Hussein’s downfall precipitated. Like Robert Fisk I feel that all the justifications that the United States and Britain used to attack Iraq neither make right having attacked a sovereign, non-threatening country in the first place nor excuse the disgraceful way in which Hussein was dragged through media and used as Bush’s scapegoat. By America’s own too-oft-touted standard of “innocent before proven guilty”, Hussein should at least have been given the benefit of the doubt in his own trial and, considering that he was supposedly tried for crimes against his own people and not against a single American citizen and therefore only the Iraqi judicial system should have been involved, the American government should have had absolutely no say in what went on in the trial. That so often during the trial the Americans were consulted and their ultimatums heeded made the entire affair a grand farce, a public hanging in the town square of American media discrimination.

If the standards used for condemning Hussein are to be considered just and inevitable, then America and Britain and any other country which falsely accused and then went ahead and attacked Iraq against the wishes of the majority of nations in the world, then it stands to reason that Bush and Blair and all other ministers involved should also be standing trial for “crimes against humanity”. Nearly every accusation used against Hussein to bring him to trial apply directly to Bush and Blair, most especially Bush with his Hitler-like railing against the United Nations during the lead-up to the Iraq War. Not to mention the scale at which Bush committed his crimes.

And yet, Bush is getting off scott free, no one able to lay a finger on him, the American media protecting his image as if it were above reproach. The Iraq War is now openly and almost universally recognized as having been wrong, hundreds of thousands of people have “needlessly” died, and now the Americans are talking about pulling out, leaving Iraq in a truly dismal state, much worse than anything under Hussein. Why is it that there are no universal calls for Bush’s answering to his crimes against humanity? Why is it that my writing something like this conjures up fear as I write it, echoing the same repression that Hussein used against any of his detractors? Can anyone explain to me exactly how Bush is any different from Hussein? Or how Blair is any different from Wormtongue?

These last few years have turned me into a reluctant cynic. I trust very few people now, even some people whom I formerly called friends. The tragedy of New York, but much more so the crimes of the Afghan and Iraq Wars have given me glimpses into the human heart that I never really believed before. In some of the ensuing arguments about going to war, arguments with people, every one of them American, whom I would before have counted to always be there no matter what, people with whom I made precious memories during my years in the States, suddenly the divisions in belief left rents that, even after three years have never healed. I saw the ugliness in people, of what war claims of people’s hearts and minds, of the aftermath of rhetoric and media propaganda, how people can become so committed to their idea of the truth that they become blinded to the bonds of friendship and love that once had crossed borders unheeded (and I’m including myself here). I am bitter with having lost friends, people who had meant more to me than the justifications for war would ever match. The lies and deception that brought on the shaky world view we live with now, though they seem distant and unrelated to our personal lives, have in fact affected each of us very deeply, in ways from which we may never be able to extricate ourselves within our lifetimes.

If for nothing else, I condemn Bush for having taken from me the trust and loyalty of friends, for having sown the seeds of doubt and fear. I condemn him for having brought to the world a sense that there is more evil in the human heart than goodness and beauty, for having made the word “terrorist” a part of our daily vocabulary. I condemn him for having forced so many of my very close Arab and Moslem friends to live by looking over their shoulders. And for, though all my life before I have never carried any kind of hate within me, towards anyone, for the blinding, wordless fury that erupts through me every time Bush’s face appears on the television or in a magazine, a face now so repugnant and so associated with war, hypocrisy, intolerance, irresponsibility, and destruction that I have to turn off the TV the moment the visage appears before I lose my cool.

Hussein has been condemned to death, but nothing at all has changed, except a greater sense of world weariness and sadness.

Categories
America: Society Journal Musings

A New Step

Gingko leaves on ground
Gingko leaves piled up along the edge of a bridge. A de-saturated photo, in real life the yellow of gingko leaves is brilliant

Ever since the avalanche of disappointment following the defeat of Kerry in the U.S. elections I have been pondering what it is that so disappointed all of us and what exactly it was that we expected. For the hope seemed to include more than the sum of American voters themselves; there was a worldwide investment in the expectation of a peaceful, healthy, and prosperous future for the planet as a whole, and the defeat of Kerry let down a lot of pent up frustrations.

Rana, over at Frogs and Ravens, in her usual eloquent and challenging way, asks what direction the blues might take in the dealing with the many social questions and problems that America and the world face. Her post approaches the question from a mainly internal American point of view, and focuses on how the American governing system might be changed. The comments that follow attempt to answer her with various analyses of American history and government structure. Rana herself questions the wisdom of continuing with the present government system and suggests working with a new group of progressives who might reform the system.

In my own reading of articles on the internet, blog posts, listening to discussions, watching the news, and going over the whole shebang in my head, more and more I return to the cause of the great disappointment people all over the world felt. Why was it that the path America, a separate nation, chose to take meant so much to so many billions of people? The most common and immediate answer invariably is that, with America on a rampage around the world and with Bush manning the guns, self-preservation and altruistic concerns for countries like Iraq would be the motivating factors behind everyone’s wishes. And rightly so. In just four years, Bush has managed to upset nearly everyone and seriously undermine worldwide peace.

But I’d also like to suggest another motivation behind people’s bated breath before the elections: The world is ready for a great reformation. Countries all over the world are beginning to let down their guards and talk about opening borders. Europe has already taken the first step with the formation of the E.U., overcoming millennia of enmities and cultural differences to attempt to work together and seek a common vision. South America seems to be taking the first steps toward pulling themselves out of poverty and corruption, toward a continental unity that could well put America’s rhetoric to shame.

Perhaps what most infuriated people around the world, including a huge portion of the American people themselves, was America’s blatant refusal to bide by the world community’s carefully established and hard-won rules of communal governing. Humanity’s first honest attempts at tackling such huge global problems as environmental destruction (the Kyoto Treaty), human rights (the World Court), and nuclear disarmament (the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) were simply brushed aside by the American government, constantly putting itself above the common rules. America wants to impose its standards and desires, but will not respect those of any one else.

I’m wondering, though, if what so many people want is a better way to deal with things like terrorism and environmental destruction, instead of feeling helpless all the time. It is time that some kind of system was enacted which allowed people all around the world to, on a grassroots level, have a say in what goes on in the world. The election of Bush, for instance, is a decision that deeply and directly affects all people around the world and, as many have suggested, solely leaving his election to the American electorate is unfair to the rest of the world, to say the least.

With the internet vastly improving transfer of information around the globe participation by people around the world has, for the first time, become a growing reality. Would it not be possible to form a global network of citizens, each acting locally, but participating at different levels of global involvement, that would allow all people around the world to have a direct say in what happens to their world? For international issues such as one country attacking another, putting it forth to the entire population of the world and allowing their votes to determine what ought to be done or prevented? Isn’t it time we stop thinking in terms of petty borders and think of the world population as one, with every man, woman, child, non-human, and element of the Earth carrying an equal share of the rights American espouse so much?

I believe that the reason no one can find solutions to the dilemma of such dinosaurs as the American or Russian or Chinese governments right now stems from a deep satisfaction with inbred ways of thinking. We have become a global community, whether we like it or not. It is antediluvian for us to still think in terms of “us against them”. While local cultures and government surely must continue to deal with the day-to-day workings of local communities, and national governments must still maintain a coherent order according to cultural realms, global problems like global warming and war cannot be left in the hands of unilateral decisions. The world is too close-knit for such sensitive and potentially disastrous decisions to be left to a few, self-interested individuals. This world belongs to all of us.

I am not suggesting revolution or violent action. I am suggesting a parallel, worldwide civic movement and, hopefully, eventually, citizenship of an organization that works mainly on information and keeping citizens informed. If the vote is truly as effective as it was meant to be then setting up a system whereby people around the world can vote for worldwide matters might stop people like Bush from regaining or gaining power.

Simply protesting is not enough. People all around the world need to have a say in all the matters that affect us all. And peacefully saying no and affecting worldwide decisions with methods similar to those employed by Gandhi to motivate the Indian populace against the British might possibly bring about a reformation in global politics and stewardship.

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Musings

When You Fall, Get Right Back Up

I slept like the dead these past two days, giving in to my body’s demand for reconnection to both the grounding of cellular reality and the votive healing of dreams. The sun and the stars vaulted overhead twice before my eyes stopped the light and measured time once again. The fever and the coughing had receded and my throat felt dry. I got up to get a glass of water.

It was very reassuring to read both Pica’s and Numenius’ reactions to the seminar they both attended. Seeing people gather and talk about how to solve the problems encourages me to keep up hope. Part of the difficulty for me is that even though I know that there must be similar gatherings going on here in Japan, I find them hard to locate because my Japanese reading is poor, rendering me practically illiterate in a country of people rated among the most literate in the world. At the same time there is little sense of urgency here. Most people hardly refer to any big issues when conversing. A nation of people in complete denial, even though their prime minister is sending troops to Iraq against the wishes of 90% of the populace, the economy has been in a 12-year slump, and their precious landscape is going to ruin, mainly because of government farm subsidies which render nearly half the farms unattended to, indiscriminate government sponsored road construction, and complete lack of imagination when coming up with schemes to revive local economies. Because there is so little protest going on and grassroots movements are so insular and are actively discouraged by the government and social mores, it is difficult to make a stand on any issues. While politicians yearly inundate neighborhoods with blaring election campaigns from loudspeakers mounted on vans driving through the local streets (something I can’t imagine an American or European town would tolerate), citizens who protest are openly derided on the news as being “too noisy” and “dangerous”. Even one of my close Japanese friends, when I took her to her first anti-war demonstration in 2003, voiced almost hysterical fear of “the mob” before she experienced the peaceful bonding that often occurs in such gatherings. All because of a lifelong subjection to a government-favoring education and society, promoted entirely by a very conservative government.

I’ve been trudging through emotional mud since the American election, trying to find some redeeming bit of news to give me reason to feel I can still trust the human race. It seems as if the world is descending into hell, and that we are teetering on the edge of the anihilation. It is all bathed in pain and I thrash about in my words like a fish snagged by a hook. I am so angry. I am so hurt. I struggle with the urge to hate, though I have no idea which face it is that I am supposed to hate. The Iraq war, the political climate, the threat of nuclear bombs, the impending collapse of the sky and oceans, the holocaust of other living things, even the danger to the very food and water we consume… How can we maintain sanity with such an overwhelming doom-sense hanging over us?

Hate is simply a knee-jerk protest against pain. Surely I have matured enough to draw the pain nigh and encompass it? Surely I can learn from this pain and evolve within the moral landscape? Surely there must be a way to evoke recognition of the fundamental common denominator of being children of this planet? Surely it cannot all be debatable, that there exist some universal truths that cannot be denied?

It is so easy to forget that the TV snatches only a smattering of the leaves of reality fluttering through the air. And like trying to catch snowflakes, you only get a tiny collection of insights into all that is happening. All you can know is the little that your senses bring you, and even that is selected by corridors of concentration.

I glanced up just now at the stillness of the branches and leaves outside the window, burning yellow in the November evening sunlight. Amidst the stillness scribed a hawk moth, wings blurred and hot, all energy tight and focused on the white camellia blossoms she touched and whirled around. She was like a restless scholar with her nose buried in a book, life too short and precious for anything else. An orange-brown speck in my eye, her feeding swept through the moment in an angry delight, arriving out of the air for those traces of sugar, then darting off towards whatever tendrils of taste she followed, out of sight. There and back again, with nary even a word of greeting.

These four years have eaten away at the roots, both in my personal life and in the life of the commons. Sometimes I shiver before opening the front door. But it is all momentary and there is nothing else. You might start by loving, intensely and with all urgency, your immediate surroundings. Recognize that they will soon pass and that nothing will ever again hold quite this shape or pattern. So that when we look up and look further, it is all connected and one, a matrix of pulsing energy and, yes, the glue of love. For what else is life and the world but the congelation of grace?

It is grace that I seek when I scramble for hope.

Categories
America: Society Blogging Journal

Mirrors

There is an enormous discussion (via On Gaien Higashi Dori) going on over at Joi Ito’s page following Joi’s… a Japanese with close ties and long experience with America and Americans… statement about how he feels about the U.S. election. For me it is interesting in that Joi’s perspective more closely parallels my own, but at the same time provides insight into how many Japanese around me feel. You don’t often get these perspectives in the blog world, because most Japanese cannot enter into the discussions at this level of English and therefore people around the world tend to miss what the Japanese might be thinking. It is a close approximate of how much of the rest of the world feels, too. The resulting comments provide a lot of food for thought, but is, perhaps, somewhat unfair, in that for the most part only English speaking readers, dominated by Americans, can necessarily contribute to the discussion.

Perhaps there is something to be learned from Joi Ito’s (and several other Japanese commenters) responses, most of all his willingness to both make an unpopular (among Americans) statement to Americans (hell, you open your mouth and they jump all over you) as well as a willingness to appear human by admitting his own faults and those of Japan. Rarely have I spoken with a Japanese about the state of Japan in which they didn’t apologize for the way Japan is. There is this inherent understanding here that things could be better and, while people here have a long way to go toward getting more involved with their government and the Japanese government itself is a creaking dinosaur, there is a steady, if slow, progression towards newer ideas and social reform. Anyone who was here from back in the 70’s would see clearly just how much things have changed. From a Japanese perspective, comparing Japan’s changes to those of America, there is a real sense of things moving backward in the States. Joi, I think, speaks from that perspective, which most Americans, knowing almost nothing about Japan or other countries, even Europe, cannot hope to use as a base from which to gauge their own society or their situation. Joi’s view, by the very nature of Japan’s necessarily dependent relationship with the rest of the world, tends toward cross-cultural dialogue, whereas American politics and opinions tend to be ingrown and self-focusing.

Americans wonder why so many people around the world criticize them so much. It is not because people around the world arbitrarily hate Americans or feel some genetic need to disparage them. And there are a great number of non-Americans, like myself, who respect, like, and even love Americans (my brother and father are Americans and I have many friends who have been very close to me for over twenty years), but vehemently oppose the government’s policies. The problem is that so many Americans can’t differentiate between themselves as individuals and the identity of the country. As a nation the United States is committing atrocities around the world and forcing themselves upon the rest of us. Any person in their right mind would strongly oppose this and even show disgust, disdain, or outrage. Why these feelings are lumped together as “hate” only tells so many of us that Americans as a whole do not think deeply about social issues and their causes.

The “world as village” model can help us see what has been happening and provides a means for an individual to imagine the emotional gammut that all parties run through. It is the American refusal to acknowledge themselves as a just one member of the community, rather than the big cheese on the block, that so grates on people. Most people around the world after the New York tragedy voiced their sympathy towards Americans. With the Afghan war and then the Iraq war, very few people went so far as to call for the deaths of Americans; rather they called for dialogue and an attempt at reconciliation and understanding, mature and conciliatory gestures from within a working community. Even Sadam Hussein and Muhammad Omar (for those who can’t remember him, he was the leader of the Taliban) requested debates with Bush. Instead the American government sought to lie to everyone, ignore them, threaten them, insult them, and finally roll over their heads and attack two countries which had done absolutely nothing to them. If someone had done that to the Americans, if Americans are even able to empathize with this example, how would the Americans have responded? Graciously? With restraint and patience? Stressing non-violence and respect?


All that being said I can’t help feeling that here we all are going again. For the past three days I’ve been raking over the coals, wandering aimlessly through the wilderness of words between the two huge camps in the night, leaving scraps of food to chew on (with all the outrage of anyone else), stopping to converse with various sentinels, bounding back and forth in my head. I would have thought that in my heart I live among those who opposed Bush, and for all practical purposes, I do. But there is something insidious in the wall of anger all around and in the indifference of those who voted for Bush towards those who now grieve. The divisiveness reflects two sides of a lusterless coin. Either way the elections had gone, one side would now be up in arms, gnashing their teeth, and seeking revenge and reasons to get back at the other side. The very nature of the rift reflects the nature of the whole mess… people have ensconced themselves within a single perspective and refuse to budge from their position. The blogosphere is ablaze with bombs lobbed upon either side, not a soul seeming to stop and consider that the heart of the problem lies in the very inability to talk and find the same vocabulary. The doctrines don’t seem to really matter. Something much deeper is at play and it threatens the very frame of the world’s society. A new Babel over the airwaves, with the towers in flames at our feet.

I propose that the underlying threat arises out of our refusal to acknowledge the state of the physical world, and that in denying it, we have lost all sense of who we are and where we belong. The contention resides in our bones; just look at any other species… it is always a fight over the territory or male dominance. When the territory vanishes, when an animal loses ground, all hell breaks loose. We like to deny it, but we are animals, too.

One reason I stopped blogging at the end of the summer was in great part because of this sense of something in myself dissipating into the light of the screen and my muscles forgetting the stop-motion of walking and immersing myself in the arms of other living things. I had found myself following one contention to another through the cerebral world of blogs and the internet, arguing and sitting alone fuming and gradually darkening my mind with clouds of imagined wrongs. I wasn’t dealing with real people or learning more about living in the real world of nature. The very purpose of my feet and fingers, eyes and ears escaped my notice.

So I must stop myself here before I dive back into the water; I do not want to live my life fighting ghosts and demons. I want to learn to engage them and talk. I want to discover what it is that binds us all together and actuates language. Bush preaches hate and warmongering and revenge and absolutes. He refutes the mystery. And so many have fallen in step behind him, taking up his chants and marching to the beat. That is not how I want to live my life. That is not how I see the living things around me or how I want to greet other people. Not in the language of defeat and bloodletting.

So, as John from Journal of a Writing Man carefully deliberates, it is not the election or the aftermath that I want to embrace, but rather the stuff of our everyday lives, and a willingness to push through the brambles and emerge on the other side. Bush is a reality. I will work steadily for change, not rush it for the ego of one misguided man. The Earth moves along a different chronology from ours. It is up to us to match our footsteps to its rich rhythm. And to learn to speak its language and to remember the origins of work.

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Musings

The Ugly Little Man in the Closet

American tortureI had to remind myself today why it is that Bush cuts so deeply into my soul. It felt as if I had almost forgotten. The zoetrope of news images, flickering by so quickly that one outrage blends into another cause the colors to mash into a sickly brown that no longer has any distinction. If you look back on the last four years, though, you have to ask how it is possible that so many American people could have systematically and so quickly forgotten something as stark and irrefutable (yes, I know nothing is irrefutable in political spin) as the torture in Abu Ghraib. It is as if nothing happened. No one of any consequence was held accountable. Like oily slivers of rope the leaders most responsible slipped away into forgetfulness, like so many other things they slipped out of. If you are at all a decent human being and sincerely believe in all the hype about American ideals and greatness how can you possibly turn your eyes away from this, or to even let it sink into oblivion, and then smugly go ahead and vote for the people most responsible for it?

I visited The Memory Hole again and sat for a long, long time whispering prayers to myself and for the victims in the pictures. I couldn’t turn on the news for fear of being presented with those images of Bush and his wife strolling about like royalty. I wanted to be sure that I was grounded in the reality of my outrage for Bush and to keep reminding myself why I can’t loosen my grip on the armrest. So many people tell me to relax and not let these things bother me, because there is nothing I can do about it. I just wish there had been someone there to tell that to people like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Geronimo, Chief Joseph, or Aung San Suu Kyi, or even Jesus Christ.

As a non-American living far away on the other side of the world the elections were more of a sticker shock value than a potential reordering of the universe. It was sobering and enlightening to report to work earlier this evening and have not one of my Japanese co-workers so much as mention the elections. It was sobering because the true place that America has in the world and in the hearts of people around the world was made abundantly clear: America figures not much in most people’s lives and the elections were nothing more than an enormous fiasco of people blathering to themselves. My sense, in the Japanese silence, was that Americans tend to take themselves entirely too seriously, raising themselves upon media pedestals all out of proportion to the honest reception that most people in the world are willing to give them. “Yeah? So what is new,” could have been the reaction here. It was simply perplexing to see this glittering pageant, like some kind of coronation, over-running the airwaves. Let no one say that the Americans have abandoned the monarchy or subservience to the overlord.

Perhaps it is the very desire to find conflict in every little discussion or statement that twirls Americans around with such contention. Even blogs, like this one, seem to survive on contrasts, and little stories behind the back. The entire Bush strategy resides within a bubble of inflated fear and controversy. In this climate it will always remain impossible for communities to flourish and nurture one another, or for diversity to strew an odd mix of seeds among the roots.

Let no one forget Abu Ghraib. Let no one render it merely an anecdote or a behavioral anomaly. When you find yourself wavering in the effort to nurture peace and understanding, or grow weary of the unrelenting madness of Bush, go back to the pictures of the tortures and remember how it all started. That should jump start the old cables and fire up that engine again.

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Musings

Candlelight

Golden half moonI know that there must be a lot of you out there feeling pretty shocked and down about what happened. I feel weary, but also a quickening of determination. Some big changes have to be made. Some hard thinking done. And some strong bonds built.

But for now, I just want to reach out and take all your hands and close our eyes for a moment to remember that the invisible half of America did not vote for Bush. We are all here, even in the rest of the world, sticking together, remembering who we are, and strong within our own circle.

Take heart everyone. There are many of us out here.

peace and good medicine

miguel

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Musings

Dread

Gutless Liars
Cartoon I drew last January before the war started, in response to a cartoon that the well-known American cartoonist Ted Rall sent me, claiming inspiration from a letter I wrote him.

I can’t stop switching on the TV and trying to glean what exactly is happening in the States with the election fever right now. It is like an obsession; for three years now I have religiously logged onto Antiwar.com, and any other source of information I could get my hands on on the internet, every single day, reading and reading for some kind of doorway to enlightenment, a way out of the shell of intolerance and anger that seems to have gripped everyone since the New York tragedy. Three years of gut wrenching horror and anguish, of at times rage so great it threatened to overwhelm my sanity. In all my life there has been nothing political that has affected my life in quite such a simplistic and visceral way or with such devastating effect upon goings on in my personal life. For three years I have focused on finding some way to influence the tide that is Bush threatening to overwhelm the entire world’s well-being. So much emotional build up, so much fear and sadness and choked up hope, that in the last few months words can no longer express any of the vast relief that Bush’s banishment would serve to fulfill. This is not just a president that has injured the world; this is a man whose hubris and ignorance would, without a moment’s hesitation, bring down the whole stage set just to fit in the last piece of the warped jigsaw puzzle of his aspirations.

The election day is looming and my guts are roiling. I don’t know where to turn or how to sit still. It is like waiting outside the doctor’s door for the results of the biopsy. As a non-American citizen I can’t even vote so that I might at least carry an iota of weight in tipping the balance, and yet the outcome will affect all our non-American lives around the world just as if we were, somehow, citizens of that country. A tremor of disbelief and nausea overcame me when I watched the huge flags waving over and throngs of mob-mentality humanity surrounding that tiny little man shaking that impudent little hand at the world’s cameras… this little man who had been handed the scepter of life and death over an entire planet. I keep asking myself, “What will happen if Bush is re-elected?” What should I do with all the eggs of decency that I put into one basket, hoping for a fairer world?

If, the morning after, I sit there having to further face that hateful face for another four years and not knowing what the world had further in store for it, Bush were to win again, what could I say about the democratic process? Bush winning by a majority will never convince me of the wisdom or righteousness of his continued presence. It is more than just the future of America as a nation… it is the very foundation of the decent ideals that we all thought we were trying to uphold around the globe that is at stake. This has gone beyond merely political… it is about right and wrong, and everything in my very fibre of being tells me that Bush is a thing wrong, an abomination. And I struggle very deeply within myself with my feelings about a nation of people that would allow someone like him to continue to hold power.

Someone recently told me that when I write about these kinds of political asides, when I go off on my tirades, that my writing is boring and disengaged from who I truly am. I wonder, though. Must I shy away from the ugliness in my life and the world around me, and stick only to painting pretty pictures of the woods and mountains in order to say anything of worth? Bush came to power and abused that power because of the illusory platitudes that those who would follow him and those who would deny his existence weave around themselves in order to avoid all sense of reality. Hide in our shells and wish it would all go away.

But whether Bush or Kerry win tomorrow will not erase the reality of the Iraq War or the heavy handedness of America’s preoccupation with “security” or with the rumblings from places like North Korea or with the failing of representation in politics. All the hoopla will not make the mornings any brighter or safer for Iraqis or Afghans, nor will the world miraculously turn into a fairy pumpkin. It is all denial and shunting aside of responsibilities and connections.

Writing this brings me no clearer picture of what to do or how to feel than before. I don’t have any idea what the better answer is to all the painful things that have gone on and continue to go on. All I know is that I need to speak and to call out amidst all this darkness. We all seem to be flailing about in blindness, fear caught in our throats because it seems the night will never end. I get the feeling though that the best thing to do is to wait it out. Eventually the morning will come, and waking. Hopefully.

What else is there to do?

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Society

What About Within the States?

Another question needs to be asked: all those September 11th suspects who were secreted away in the States and who have not been mentioned in the news for a very long time now, what happened to them? Are they being abused, too? Is anyone going to force an inquiry into this, or is it just too unpalatable for Americans to ponder? If there is nothing to hide, then why are they being held in secret?